Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--Ambassador Hotel, Atlantic City, NJ

For much of the twentieth century Atlantic City's hotels dominated the skyline, a concrete embodiment of the resort as a fantasy world. These architectural confections provided much more than a good night's rest. Their dining rooms offered dishes from the standard to the exotic, to the sublime. The elegant interior spaces provided comfort, service, and entertainment to make the visitor's stay a memorable one. . .
. . .The Ambassador Hotel built in 1919 was the largest on the Boardwalk. Here, Enrico Caruso, President Warren Harding, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle vacationed. The Brighton, the first Atlantic City hotel to entertain guests year round (steam heat), was considered the resort's "classiest" hotel with a reputation for turning away the "wrong kinds" of people. Indeed, if the Boardwalk hotels had become the haven of the elegant, if not the rich and famous, the many smaller hotels, like the Channel and Attuck's, which lined the city's streets, accommodated very comfortably the urban masses for whom this resort had been established.                         -Atlantic City Historical Museum

Legendary Hotels
Atlantic City's luxury hotels were legendary from the start. One of the first built -- the 600-room United States Hotel -- was the country's largest and the place where Ulysses S. Grant vacationed during his second term as President. By the turn of the century, the boardwalk was four miles long and lined with glittering hotel resorts catering to the east coast's nouveau riche industrialist set.

Gangsters by the Sea
It was just as common to catch a glimse of famous gangsters. For half a century, Atlantic City was notorious for its mobsters, back-alley gambling dens and speakeasies. During Prohibition, the nearby maze of inlets, marshes and river mouths provided an ideal avenue for waterborne smugglers landing cargoes of European whiskey.

Mobster Convention
In May of 1929, mob kingpins from around the country, including Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Al Capone, gathered for a three-day national convention in Atlantic City's Ambassador Hotel. Earlier that year, Capone had generating shocking headlines with his "Valentine's Day Massacre" machine-gun killings of bootlegging rivals in Chicago. And just days before arriving in Atlantic City, he had used a baseball bat to cave in the skulls of three disloyal lieutentants in a crowded banquet room in Indiana. The gangsters gathered at Atlantic City's Ambassador sought to find ways to end their bloody wars, coordinate their national racketeering activities and reign in Capone, whose ferocity unnerved even them.

Capone Left Atlantic City a Lesser Man
Capone was the loser at that 1929 meeting and left Atlantic City a lesser mobster. In an apparent attempt to protect himself from the hit men of his fellow conventioneers, he took the train from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, turned himself in on a minor gun possession charge and willingly went to jail for a few months. Lucky Luciano, on the other hand, left Atlantic City with new stature and power as an emerging national mob boss.
 - OnSight Reports 
Tropicana Casino and Resort - Atlantic City

The Tropicana was the concept of Ramada Inns in the 1980s. It was built on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel. After paying $20 million for the old Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City, the company released plans to renovate the property and convert it into a 546 room hotel and 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m) casino with amenities including a 1,200 seat dinner theater, 1,000 seat ballroom and other public facilities.
Executives at Ramada were forced to alter their plans when their design was denied approval by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and Governor Brendan Byrne, both of whom had become tired of casino operators doing "patch and paint" jobs instead of building totally new properties, a main reason for the legalization of casinos in Atlantic City. Ramada was ordered to demolish the old building and start from the ground up, and the company threatened to appeal the decision in court. An agreement was finally reached between Ramada and the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to only use the steel framework of the Ambassador while changing the exterior appearance of the hotel. The ultimate result of these design changes was a two-year delay in the resorts opening as well as millions of dollars in cost overruns that pushed the final price tag of the resort to almost $400 million.
In order to take advantage of its recent purchase of the original Tropicana Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Ramada officials decided to call their new property the Tropicana Atlantic City in order to capitalize on the recognizable name. The Tropicana Atlantic City officially opened on November 23, 1981 with 521 guest rooms and casino space. . . 
2007 Casino license renewal
[A big mess. It led to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission citing] the management's "abysmal" regulatory compliance as well as a "lack of business responsibility...and a lack of good character, honesty, and integrity." The property was immediately placed in control of a trustee - New Jersey State Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein - until the property can be sold. This is only the second time in 29 years that the commission has denied a license renewal. Lawyers are expected to appeal. The casino will continue to operate, but it will be under the supervision of a trustee.
The hotel and casino remain open and operations will not be affected.
2009 Purchase  The bankruptcy sale of the Tropicana Casino and Resort to a group of creditors led by Icahn was approved on June 12, 2009. Other owners now include Black Diamond Capital Management and Schultze Asset Management. The acquisition was in exchange for $200 million worth of debt. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission will decide on the actual ownership structure.


Don't Feed The Pixies said...

It's funny how the style of buildings changes depending on when they were built - this would fit right in amongst the seafront hotels at Brighton. Nowadays its all towers of glass with coffee shops and bars on the ground floor and apartments above.

Love the link the building has to Capone! He he!!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

An old post card can say a lot about many things... So interesting this post Lydia!

the watercats said...

That postcard is amazing!.. the building looks incredibly intimidating in it's affluent size! The history of the building was fascinating, like the slightly dark intonations too, every good building needs some dark :-)

Lydia said...

@Pixies- Brighton, when I imagine it, would have buildings like this and it's depressing to learn that it's no longer true.
I agree about the HeHe!

@Phivos- O, thank you so much for taking a look at it!

@the watercats- A good statement of yours: every good building needs some dark. It sounds like the beginning to one of your wonderful stories!

Lea said...

Ambassador hotel is indeed legendary. It stood for almost a century. It's design is magnificent!

Lydia said...

@Lea- Welcome! and thank you for stopping by to comment on the great hotel.

@online casino- Thank you for stopping by my blog.



Related Posts with Thumbnails